The opening ceremony for historic, face-to-face peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban militant group is set to hold on Saturday in the Qatari capital, Doha.
After nearly two decades of fighting, senior Taliban leaders and a high-ranking government delegation are set to meet in the city’s Sheraton Hotel.
The ceremony is expected to be attended by the chairperson of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, as well as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo has described the talks as “Afghanistan’s best chance at ending 40 years of war and bloodshed.”
Each side is represented by a 21-member team. The government team is headed by former Afghan intelligence chief Masoom Stanekzai; the Taliban delegation by their chief justice, Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai.
The government’s first priority is achieving a lasting ceasefire.
The militants have not made their full demands clear.
During the past 19 years, the militants refused to talk to the government, calling it a “puppet” of the West.
But a deal between the U.S. and Taliban in February paved the way for the intra-Afghan talks.
The U.S.-Taliban agreement led to a large-scale prisoner swap between the two sides, and specified that all international troops would gradually leave Afghanistan.
In return, the Taliban agreed to enter into peace talks with the government and renounce terrorism.